Friday, 11 July 2014

Ben Aden. An Epic Trip. Shriekback. Cloud Atlas Review.

Usual weather for the blue sky team saw us motoring up past Glencoe with fine views of the surroundings. This is Creise, just before Glen Etive, a mountain I've always fancied doing again. When you are bagging Munros, unless you are really keen, many only get one solitary ascent, and I fancied having a scramble up this mountain one last time as I remember it being good up the Glen Etive/ Glen Coe facing ridge.( route seen on the right hand side, above)

Ben Nevis north facing cliffs in bright sunlight. Not often you can say that. Looks spectacular in this light but the three hour walk into the base of the cliffs with a heavy climbing rucksack, (ropes, harness, rock shoes, etc.) always flattened my enthusiasm for summer rock climbs up here.
One of the mountains on Alex wish list was Ben Aden, 887 metres, or Beinn  an Aodainn to give it its proper title. This is reputed to be one of the hardest mountains to reach in the British isles as it lies in a remote part of Knoydart, deep in the interior, guarded and surrounded by lochs, empty peat bogs and largely trackless terrain. The last time we visited Knoydart, via Inverie, I was slightly disappointed how busy it had become in the intervening years with Munro bagging such a mainstream sport these days. (Many modern playgrounds have a miniature climbing wall that is rarely used by children)
I was also disappointed by the way Alex's tent is all erect and tidy in this photograph  and mine's always sags in the middle no matter which way I adjust the guy lines. Life is like that sometimes.
Alex always takes a good photograph from any angle... I don't. I used to know someone that was a mean, nasty, bad tempered, individual yet she always looked amazing in photographs, all sweetness and smiles, like a gorgeous Mary Poppins. She was a cat kicker as a child in secret.

After pitching the tents in the early evening we wandered down to the rocky shoreline of Loch Cuaich for a small fire among the boulders as the midges and bloodsucking clegs were bad. Alex had a bag of wood for burning so we didn't have to burn any bog wood. Some of it looked alive, like this poor skeleton creature above who seems in pain.
If you stare at any fire for long enough you can always see visions and then the flame creatures appear. Can you spot the woman in the top hat (the cat stamper grown up perhaps) or my unsuspecting little pussy above her head. (This is an unaltered photograph by the way.) Flame creatures are everywhere if you slow your life to find them. The history of our ancestors, all the great stories and sagas grew from flame watching. Beowulf was born in the flames of a fire age.
                                                             The landscape near Loch Cuaich.
In the morning, with hangovers from copious gurgling's of the water of life the night before we readied the boat as we were intending to glide down Loch Cuaich from our improvised campsite under Leac nan Gaidhseich all the way into the twin Dams at the far end, a distance of around 9 kilometres (18 return) and a considerable saving as the headland around Sron Lice na Fearna looked trackless and hard to walk around.
I was not impressed by our boats name as this creature spends as much time under water as it does floating on the surface. A bad omen in my opinion. In case of repercussions it shall remain nameless however.

It was a perfect morning, as usual, and even the appearance last night of the long forgotten cat stamper and baby throttler in the flames ( Cruella de Vil's evil daughter) couldn't dampen the spirits. It seemed a long way, even in Alex's magical flying carpet of a boat.

At the end of the loch, Ben Aden loomed above the blue waters, its summit appearing through a doughnut hole of early morning mist. This would be an exciting trip down the loch in windy conditions however as it's very exposed to the elements.
We picked a landing spot and disembarked into a low level forest of cotton grass, a lover of bog land environments.
Also plenty of these plants... the carnivorous alpine sundew which gets extra nutrients from it's surroundings in the shape of little flying creatures caught in its sticky dew drops. You can see some here.
As it was a magical environment we were in.... a dragon duly appeared. Another catcher and avid devourer of small flying things. I hoped a cleg would fly by and I could watch it being eaten alive slowly the way they were chewing into me all the way up the hill.
The wild lands at the head of Loch Cuaich. Still a true wilderness area... for now.
Slabby sums up Ben Aden. Exposed bare rock flourishes on this mountain, like the alpine sundews thrive on the bogs below.
A nice arête, at around grade one scrambling level if you keep to the rocky crest, led us eventually to the summit. The yellow x marks our start point just above the remote, sandy beach beautiful, and little visited Lochan nam Breac.
An entertaining ascent and as we climbed higher the breeze picked up and the clegs, the curse of summer in the Scottish west coast hills every bit as much as the midge for hillwalkers, fell away.
A view back to our wild campsite at the other end of Loch Cuaich.
The summit and an inversion over the Knoydart peaks. We met one other walker and fellow Corbett bagger who arrived on the summit having walked the full way in from close to our camping spot. He still looked remarkably fresh and it turned out he was a long distance hiker. The 26 kilometres round trip over mainly trackless ground was a mere stroll in the park for him. And he was older than us!! We met two other retired hill walkers at Loch Cuaich on the way back and they were notching up long hard days on the surrounding summits with a spring still in their step as well.
How come everyone we meet these days seems to be older yet fitter than us? It's not fair!
Mind you, I couldn't give up my fizzy drink, sugar drenched snacks, vodka, whisky, crisps and cheap meat based diet plan any more than Alex could give up cigarettes. One has standards on the hills to maintain!

The route down was the same as the route up, except steeper. " You wont like this next bit very much Bob. " Alex informed me looking down at a tricky steep wall with a rock pavement far below his feet for a landing    . He was right.
A great trip in a fantastic area. Could do with a wind farm though. I've got so used to seeing them from every summit these days I missed them dreadfully.
Video this time is a real stunner. I first heard of the band Shriekback when I watched the film Manhunter, the first in the Red Dragon series, and thought it was as good as the more famous Silence of the Lambs that followed it. Shriekback do moody and dark instrumental scores for films occasionally and "Coelacanth" was the standout track for me on Manhunter as it really matched the action onscreen. Great music can really enhance films but it doesn't happen as often as it should. 
The HD art work in this video is amazing. Probably the best images I've seen in this genre.
Should be watched full screen from the start.

Which brings me to Cloud Atlas. Against my better judgement, I purchased Cloud Altas (only £3 for a new film which says everything about the internet crushing fair prices for books and movies)
The book gets very good reviews online but anything that has six different stories taking place in different centuries is going to be hard to covert into a coherent film and so it proved. At three hours long and irritating switches between centuries, sometimes as short as six, minute long segments, spliced together, I lost the will to live long before the end. Especially with a gobbledygook language to learn thrown in for good measure. This is true, true! One of the reasons for watching it was the fact that Overtoun House above Dumbarton, setting for a recent post on this blog, was a star throughout the film.
The other was the fact that I'd actually watched Halle Berry, briefly, making her chunk in Glasgow around the same time that Brad Pitt was filming World War Z in George Square.(That's not a half bad film, as summer blockbuster zombie apocalypses go) 
See post on that day here
As it was filmed in several different countries with a big name cast it must have cost a packet to make which , when you watch the above video, only goes to show throwing money at a film doesn't necessarily make it a success. This vision above of a spectacular alternative world, similar yet different from our own, beats Cloud Atlas hands down.  Some of the best films I've seen have been small indie productions with a simple but great central idea.. like Juno.


Alistair said...

What an adventure Bob! Glad to see Alex's pate looking nice and tanned.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Alistair,
It was certainly a hot adventure, Not a drop of drinkable water to be found on the ridge and even the main river was down to a trickle.

The Glebe Blog said...

Hi Bob, another true adventure. Some amazing scenery here.
That's what I miss about a real fire, the pictures and the mottled legs.
I'm slowly getting in to Autohighography. I'm up to 24% now.
I got quite interested in Tam and Sarah. Hot stuff what !
Talking of adventures I'm hoping to go visit some folk in the antipodes next year. The real adventure if it comes off will be in 2016 when me and a pal will fly drive from Great Falls, Montana to Anchorage, Alaska via Alberta and back.
Like the Shriekback video.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim,
An enjoyable trip... in retrospect, though hard work at the time.
My book is obviously not the page turner I intended it to be and I've given up hope of it setting the creative world alight as I haven't made a single penny from it so far.
God loves a trier however, so my second effort, a straightforward local guide book, may do better. I'm working on the last chapter right now :o)
You've certainly got ambition Jim... and planning. I never think beyond a few weeks for trips anywhere.
The HD graphics are getting impressive and fan music videos are now better than many films.

Carol said...

It does look a toughie that - I hope that, if I do decide to do it, I can cope with the scrambliness and steepness of it! Mind you, after walking all that way in (I don't fancy rowing that far along the loch shore!), I'll pretty much have to continue to the summit or I'll have wasted the long walk in!

I have an answer to why your retirees were so sprightly - they were retired! It's work that's wearing us out. The difference in energy levels between me and Richard who retired at 50 is amazing! He used to be the laggard, now it's me in his wake feeling terrible.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
you must have plans to do the Corbett's then if you're thinking of that one? There is an easier way up the grassy ramp to the left of the rocky arête that doesn't require any scrambling but it's a tricky hill in mist as we found out descending from the summit in the murk. We only went back down the arête because we missed the ridge leading to that easier ramp line.

Neil said...

I'm envious Bob, that's one Corbett I haven't done. Without a boat, it's a long way in, and the rocky nature of the peak has always put me off. Easy enough to get up, more difficult to find the way down! Alex must be getting close to completion now.

Carol said...

I have plans to do SOME Corbetts but definitely not them all - that one has always fascinated me though - that and Sgurr a' Choire Beith (I think?) with the long ridge which descends more or less to Barrisdale Bay.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
He's down to 20 left now I think but some of them are far flung... like Clisham on the outer isles.